Kickstarter Boulevard

Like virtually everyone else in town and the surrounding area, we're hoping that the fund-raising campaign launched last week by the Village Picture Shows - the only movie theater left between Bennington and Rutland - is successful. As many know by now, the theater needs to raise $175,000 to finance a conversion to digital projection equipment. Old 35 mm celluloid film stock - the mainstay production vehicle of the movie business for more than a century - is being replaced by a newer digitally-based format that offers long-run benefits. Those would include an easier to use, cheaper to distribute format, and which probably also offers more creative possibilities for movie making. On the other hand, we have a funny feeling that, much like the vinyl records that music CD's first replaced - and have now been eclipsed in turn by MP3 files - there may well be many movie directors who prefer working in the older medium for its visual richness and special characteristics.

Irregardless, the fact of the matter is that the change is coming, because it will save big film studios buckets of money. There's nothing wrong with that, and you could argue that's the way it works in any business, sooner or later. The cost of distributing old 35 mm film movies in large metal canisters runs quickly into serious dollars. Digital product costs much, much less to ship. The movie distributors have been pushing for this change for awhile, and by the end of this year, it will be go digital or go out of business for virtually all movie theaters.

So far, it seems the goodwill the Village Picture Shows has built up over a long period of time, such as from making the theater available for special events and independent film festivals, has held them in good stead. What goes around, does come around, it seems. As of early this week, a visit to the Kickstarter Web site - the Internet fund-raising tool the local movie theater is using to gather (hopefully) the needed funds - showed that the Village Picture Shows had received more than $63,000 in pledges after less than a week of going live, a figure sure to be even higher by the time many of you read this later in the week. At that rate, it won't be long before the theater can go shopping for those new projectors, screens and sound systems.

All of which is heartwarming and reassuring, and parallels similar accounts of other theaters elsewhere around the country that turned to community fund-raisers as a way to stay in business. It would certainly be a step backwards for Manchester and the surrounding towns to lose a local movie theater - despite its abundant cultural offerings for a town of its size, Manchester would be a lesser place without a local movie outlet. Not every showing may be a sell-out, but it's nice to know that when the spirit moves, taking in a movie on the big screen need not involve a 30 minute or more drive.

But this whole situation raises broader questions about movies and movie theaters. With the advent of a dazzling array of portable digital hardware, and the capacity to stream it over the airwaves or through hard-wired connections, how does a traditional movie theater compete with the convenience of watching a movie on a personal laptop computer or tablet device? Much like countless industries before them, such as newspapers and the music recording business, a new era is not just dawning, it's arrived, and more changes will come. Some will be good. Others, like losing a movie theater as a place to go for an easy, quick and relatively inexpensive night out where you might bump into some friends, aren't so good. Just like many of us still prefer listening to old music records on vinyl, even with all the pops and scratches, there's a social dimension to watching a movie in a theater that you just don't get from watching it in your living room on a computer.

So here's hoping the fund-raising campaign is successful and that going to the movies continues to be one of the options in Manchester. It's good to see that when good works are done over a long period of time, it's noticed, and those deposits in the bank of good will earn interest when they need to be accessed.


If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.

Powered by Creative Circle Media Solutions